Pages

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tourney Guide 2K9


So, have you filled out your bracket yet? Really? And you did so without checking in here first with yours truly? Wow. Not the strategy I would have gone with, but I guess if you don't wanna pick the brain of an expert before you throw your $20 into the ring that's your business. You ignorant wannabes...

For those of you that knew you would need to patiently wait for the good sage to come down from the mountain with his predictions and prophecies, what you're getting today might be not be exactly what you were looking for. Because while I would love to lay out all my picks for ya right here and right now, there are 2 very good reasons why that's just not a very practical thing to do...


1) Thievery: Call me arrogant if you'd like, but I know there are some people out there against whom I am competing, that would like nothing more than to have all my picks laid out before them...

2) I haven't even made my picks yet! I don't know about you, but with a few big time injuries out there, I'm waiting until the last minute before I even start making my picks. I wanna go into this thing with a clear mind and a clear image of every team in my head. If I make my picks only to go back and tweak them after hearing some injury news, I just don't think my picks will have as much flow and rhythm to them. Basically, and excuse the disgusting pun, there should be a method to your madness. If you feel go about going back and changing several picks after you've "completed" your initial bracket, then by all means. Again, that's just another instance in which you're a better man/chick than I...


So, while I won't be dishing out my picks, what I will do is give you the heads up on some keys to look for early on in each regional. I'll map out the favorites, the potential upsets and even give the heads up on some teams to be wary of. Basically, it's just like one of those 50 other tourney previews you've already seen, with the lone difference being you actually know the person writing it, and you know that he's a slave to the game of college basketball. I look at it like this. Picking the tournament to me, is like fighting a war against all those big time experts. And like in any good war, it's always the guy with the most limited supplies, the least amount of money but the most at stake that always comes out on top. In this case, I would say that describes me to a T...

So believe the "Red Coats" if you will, but in the game of picking tourney winners, you can just call me "Charlie". Not President Charlie, mind you, just the Asian guy that was apparently always beating our ass in the Vietnamese jungle...

Now without further dudes, here's you're guide to the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament. If you really wanna see you I picked to cut down the nets, check back on Thursday before the games. For now, chew on this...

It's tourney time, baby. Gus Johnson is foaming at the mouth ,and it's time for the mad dash to the cash that we all hold so close and dear...

Now fill out your bracket before Eric Devendorf takes a bite out of your face...


MIDWEST


Favorite: (1) Louisville

Rick Pitino's Cardinal's may have back doored their way to the #1 seed, but it doesn't mean they're any less deserving. Having won both the Big East regular season and conference tournament definitely give them the best resume heading into this thing. Not to mention the fact that they have the 4 most important things when it comes to winning in March. Great coaching, great defense, great depth, and at least one future pro. That's a deadly combination that should see the boys from Kentucky at the very least cruise into the Elite 8. What you do with them from there is your business...


Contenders: (2) Michigan St.; (3) Kansas; (4) Wake Forest

It's pretty much chalk city in when it comes to picking a winner for this region. Outside of the top 4 seeds, I can't really see any team good enough to make a run to the Final Four. And it's not like this 3-some instills a ton of confidence either. All 3 were earlier than expected losers in their respective conference tournaments, and Kansas in particular has a history of bowing out in the first round, when a lot of people have them picked to do a lot of damage. Mostly me...

One interesting thing to keep an eye out for, is that not only do the Michigan St. Spartans have tourney master Tom Izzo on their bench, but they're the only team that's actually excited about the prospect of playing the Final Four in Detroit...


Upset Watch: (14) North Dakota St. over (3) Kansas

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat. I will only start considering a 1st round game an upset when we get to the 11/6 match ups. And even those are pretty even. But 8/9 and 7/10 games? Those teams are basically even to begin with. That's why I always find it funny when people talk about the curse of the 7/10 or pick a 10 seed as an "upset" winner. Get with the program, you floundering Teds...

In this case, I like NDSU as a possible first round Cinderella based on their proximity to home (Minnesota), and the history of their opponent. Kansas has done a good job in the past of turning my bracket into a Mexican porto potty on day 1, and if you've been through similar pain this could be the payback you're lookin' for...

Oh, and for time's sake, let's just assume that any team that's not a 15 or a 16 has what it takes to win one game on a neutral court against pretty much anybody else. That'll save me the time of telling you how exactly each of these upsets could potentially go down. Besides, not like you would know any of the guys I mentioned or actually believe they were better than the big time schools anyway, now would ya?...


Sleeper Teams: (5) Utah; (9) Siena

The Midwestern Conference got the shaft with San Diego St. and New Mexico being left out, and Utah could make the selection committee pay. The Utes have 7 footer Luke Neville in the middle and they can shoot from outside, making them a tough out for anyone. Add to that they get Arizona followed by an inconsistent Wake Forest, and these bootleg Mormons could easily find themselves dancing in Indianapolis...

As for Siena, they have the same team that ran over Vandy in last year's first round, so you know they've got what it takes. They love to push the tempo, and should they get by Ohio St. in Dayton, they would be a really bad match up for #1 Louisville...


Most Overrated Team: (8) Ohio St.

I'm sorry, but a 10-8 record in the Big 10 and a soft 3-6 record against the Top 25 just don't impress me. That and the lack of any sort of legit scoring punch should prevent the Buckeyes from winning more than 1 game, even with the home court advantage...


Hottest Team (last 12 games): (1) Louisville (11-1); (14) North Dakota St. (11-1)

Hey when you're hot, you're hot! Siena, Cleveland St. & Utah also come in smokin' @ 10-2 over their last 12. The worst record belongs to 6-6 USC, but seeing as they just came off a Pac 10 title run, the honor goes to the 12 seeded Arizona Wildcats @ 7-5...


Best Player: Earl Clark + Terrence Williams, Louisville

This 1-2 punch of future lottery picks are what make Louisville more than just a scrappy defensive team that can hit the 3. Either of these two are capable of going off on any night, and Clark is the prototypical guy you can count on in the final seconds. He can make his own shot, he can draw the double team, he can pass, and he can hit his free throws. Face it. Pitino's team is loaded, and there's a reason why they are #1 overall...


WEST


Favorite: (2) Memphis

With UCONN having gone 3-3 since the loss of Jerome Dyson, Memphis moves to the front of the line as the favorites in the West. Not only do they bring some experience from last year's squad that made it to the Finals, but they're flat out the hottest team in the country. Since moving super frosh Tyreke Evans to point guard, Memphis has gone from 6-3, to the 31-3 juggernaut you see before you today. And just like Louisville, they rely heavily on good guard play, great defense (best FG% in the nation) and great coaching. All good traits to have heading into the dance...

And no, the fact they played in such a weak conference doesn't bother me. It used to, believe me, but after their tourney success the past 2 seasons, it's basically become the boy who cried wolf...or in this case, Tiger...

...(sorry about that, it was just too easy)



Contenders: (1) UCONN; (3) Missouri; (4) Washington; (5) Purdue

In what appears to be a top heavy region crammed with 5+ potential Final Four teams, these 4 squads are what I consider the best of the rest. All have the big conference resume that suggests they have what it takes to go on a big run, with Mizzou and Purdue coming in hot, fresh off conference tournament title runs...

Oh and if you like trends, you're gonna love this. UCONN won the National Championship in '99 and '04 when they started in what region? Oh that's right. The West. Every 5 years, and the same region? I smell a feature on ESPN!...



Upset Watch: (11) Utah St. over (6) Marquette

Poor Marquette, man. They were once a team I was primed to slide into the Final Four, but after the injury to Dominic James (and a 5-7 finish) they have just become a shell of their former selves. Combined that with a match up against a 30 win Utah St. team fresh off both a regular season and conference tourney title, and I can't say I like the Golden Eagles chances very much at all. It's a damn shame, too...


Sleeper Team: (12) Northern Iowa

I'm always a big fan of the Missouri Valley Conference (or "the Val", if you will), and just because the league is down a bit this year doesn't mean their representative is any less dangerous. They make their free throws, have a 7 foot center who isn't a stiff, and they have 5 legitimate scorers who are all capable of going off at any time. My only issue with the Panthers, is they have no real legit wins this year to fall back on...


Most Overrated Team: (7) California

They are super young, and rely far too heavily on the 3. They did sweep Washington in the regular season, but that was just an instance of a bad match up combined with their streaky shooting. Not like I see anyone picking the Cal/Maryland winner to beat Memphis anyway...


Hottest Team: (2) Memphis (12-0)

Since moving Evans to point guard, the Tigers are 25-0, making them by far the hottest team in the country. Missouri and BYU are the next hottest, coming in at 10-2, while both Cal and Maryland come in stone cold @ 6-6. It's also worthy to note that while Mississippi St. comes in at just 7-5, they're riding high after grabbing the SEC automatic bid by winning they conference tournament...

Best Player: Hasheem Thabeet, UCONN

Simply put, he's the single most important player in this tournament. Even with their struggles recently, Thabeet's play could either have the Huskies cutting down the nets, or dancing their way out of the tourney by the Sweet 16. He can change the game with the way he blocks and alters shots, but if he can't stay on the floor, Jim Calhoun might have some legitimate questions to answer this time around in the post game press conference...


EAST


Favorite: (1) Pittsburgh

How much do I love the Pittsburgh Panthers? Well let's see. I detest both the city of Pittsburgh, and the state of Pennsylvania, yet I've had this team at the top of my rankings for nearly the entire season. Would they be there now? Well that's a question you'll have to wait til Thursday for. What I can tell you right now, is that this team is flat out loaded. Sam Young is the physical wing man who can get his shot any time he wants. DaJuan Blair is the beast in the middle that can dominate the paint. LeVance Fields is the floor general that can control the pace of the game. And they have plenty of role players to fill out the rest of their roster, and give them some considerable depth...

Sure they haven't made it out of the Sweet 16 in the past 2 years despite being seeded 3 and 4, that doesn't mean they're jinxed! Just take a look at what I said about Memphis and their tournament history. History will only help you make your argument once you've already taken a side. I recommend using what you've seen from Pitt this year, rather than trying to ride some sort of irrelevant trend...

As long as Fields is near 100%, not picking the Panthers to at least make the Elite 8 would be a major mistake...



Contenders: (2) Duke; (3) Villanova; (6) UCLA

It's very likely that the Sweet 16 game in the lower half of the East will be either UCLA/Duke, Villanova/Duke, or a made for TV rematch of Duke/VCU. All games I would love to see, and just might seeing as they are being played in Boston. That was a plea for tickets, by the way, so get to your nearest Intraweb broker already and hook a brother up!...

Realistically, you have to think that whoever comes out of that lower half there will have to be playing well enough to give Pitt a run for their money. Especially when you consider the fact that a UCLA/Pitt match up could be an epic teacher/student affair with Ben Howland and his protege Jamie Dixon goin' duking it out for a trip to Detroit. Howland beat Dixon in '07 to move on to the Elite 8, and you gotta think young Skywalker is on the prowl for some delicious revenge...

Oh and keep an eye out for the Dukies this year....and not to necessarily choke like the sissy white boys they are. Their new lineup with Scheyer at the point and a healthy Noland Smith have really made a difference down the stretch. Example: In his 10 games as PG, Scheyer has just 9 turnovers. Hate Duke if you must, just make sure you're doing it for the right reasons...


Upset Watch: (13) Portland St. over (4) Xavier

Look. Either you like the A-10, or you don't. If you don't, them I say go with the champs from the Big Sky. They have a win @ Gonzaga on the season, and can be deadly if they start to make it reign from 3. Not a great match up for a young Xavier squad that doesn't exactly have the big men inside to take advantage of the smallish #13 seed...

Sleeper Team: (7) Texas

Much like Georgetown and Notre Dame, Texas was once high up in the rankings before falling off the map mid season. Only difference, is the Horns didn't play in the Big East, and were actually able to still scrap together enough wins to make the Big Dance. That being said, they were ranked so highly for a reason. They've got a ton of talent. Should they be able to pull it together and actually play up to their potential for once, then it wouldn't be far fetched at all to see them crash that party I mentioned above, and be there bracket half's rep at the TD BankNorth Garden...



Most Overrated Team: (5) Florida St.

I respect everything Tony Douglas does, the man is a beast. I describe him as Johnny Flynn on HGH. He's a warrior. Problem for him, is he's pretty much the only decent player on his team, and definitely the only one I can even remotely trust to come up big with the game on the line.

Aside from Clemson, FSU is the biggest fraud from the biggest fraud conference in the land. And for once, I'm not talking about the Big 11....(and no, that wasn't a typo. Do the math yourselves and get back to me)...

Hottest Team: (14) American (12-0)

Pittsburgh at 10-2 is probably the most legit team in the region coming in hot, but when picking an upset it's noteworthy to look at American. I know the Patriot League doesn't exactly scare people, but the fact that they've won 19 of their last 20 and are top 10 in the country in FG% defense should. It doesn't bode well for them, however, as the last 2 seasons have seen the 14 seeds go 0-8...

Note: Binghamton is 11-1 themselves, while both VCU and Florida St. come into the dance having won 9 of their last 12...



Best Player: Sam Young, Pittsburgh

Much like Earl Clark, he's a jack of all trades and a near master of most of them as well. The tournament should serve as a nice audition for the future NBA lottery pick, and I think most of the country will be surprised at just how good this kid actually is. I know he's on a team loaded with stars, but when it comes down to crunch time, he's the guy you're gonna wanna watch out for. Not the big man down low, and not the dinged up point guard who specializes in running the offense...

The Panthers can make it pretty far without Young going off, but if he does show up to play, they're most certainly assured of making the Final 4...


SOUTH


Favorite: (1) North Carolina

In my eyes, the injury to PG Ty Lawson's ankle removed any clear cut favorite from this year's field. It's the reason the Heels lost in the ACC tourney, it's the reason Louisville is the overall #1 seed and it will be the reason behind whether or not the Heels make the Final Four for the second consecutive year...

However, to dismiss the Heels even if Lawson is dinged up, would in my eyes be a huge mistake...

Now I know Roy Williams said during the ACC tourney that if that were the Final Four Lawson still wouldn't be in there, but that was already 4 days ago. And while I don't wanna take either Butler or LSU lightly, the Heels probably won't need Lawson at 100% until the start of the Sweet 16, nearly 2 weeks from now! If he's still not healthy by then, they could be in trouble. But seeing as it's not a broken ankle, I'd still feel pretty comfortable giving the Heels a lot of weight to carry in my bracket. They're just way too talented, way too deep, and have too good a coach...



Contenders: (2) Oklahoma; (3) Syracuse; (4) Gonzaga; (6) Arizona St.; (8) LSU

You could make the argument that this region sports the best team from the SEC and the Big XII, and top 3 teams from the Big East, Pac 10 and Big 10. And that's not even counting wild cards Gonzaga and Clemson. And if you wanna believe that Ty Lawson is hurt, then this thing is more wide open than Lawrence Taylor's nostrils at a Columbian wedding reception...

Syracuse is fresh off a great Big East run, and they have dynamic guards that know how to score...

Oklahoma has Blake Griffin, the best player in the country...

Gonzaga just bltized through to WCC, and has only lost once in '09 (Memphis)...

Arizona St. sat atop the Pac 10 all year long, and sports a future lottery pick (Harden) to go along with a top 10 defense...

And LSU has the 3 headed monster of Temple, Mitchell and Thronton, not to mention they were the best in the SEC this year. The SEC may have been down, but tack on the fact that Mitchell and Temple played on that Final Four team with Big Baby and Tyrus Thomas, and all of a sudden Trent Johnson and his Tiger's start lookin' all the more dangerous...

To quote my buddy Ian right after the bracket came out and we saw where Cuse was headed...

"They didn't do us any favors"

No they didn't, IMann. No they didn't...

Should be fun to watch, though...



Upset Watch: (12) Western Kentucky over (5) Illinois

Not only is Western Kentucky giant killer #1, but they face an Illinois team that will be down a ket player in Chester Frazier. Not too many guys average around 5 points, rebounds and assists per game, and his presence will be dearly missed on both sides of the ball. This Illini team thrives on quick and crips ball movement, and with one of their cogs missing in action, it could cause the whole damn machine to fall apart...


Sleeper Team: Winner of LSU/Butler game

This goes right back to how you feel about Ty Lawson and UNC. If you don't think they're ready for prime time, then the LSU/Butler winner should be the team you pick to knock them out. I know I just got finished saying this region is loaded with great teams, but for the sake of your bracket, this would be the game to knock UNC out. Should it come to fruition, it would be a pick nobody else would probably have, giving you a leg up. And seeing as you don't think UNC is gonna go very far anyway, you might as well get them out of there at a time in the bracket where it's the most advantagous for you to pick up a few extra points...

Both LSU and Butler are dangerous teams that won't be afriad of playing UNC in Greensboro. It doesn't mean they're gonna win, mind you, but having been in these situations before is definitely an advantage, and a legitimate reason to pick them as the first big time upset...


Most Overrated Team: NONE

Deepest region in the country if you ask me. It's not until Michigan at 10 do I see a team that's not capable of representing this region in the Final Four. Should be a blood bath...


Hottest Teams: (12) Western Kentucky (11-1); (4) Gonzaga (11-1)

UNC comes in @ 10-2, but it's the Mid-Major reps that have been hottest over the last few weeks. Western Kentucky made the Sweet 16 as a 12 seed last year and sports a win over Louisville this year, while the Zags come in fresh off a WCC romp and get to play their first two games in Portland, Oregon. Now I'm no crystal ball reader or anything, but I would say that bodes well for both of them...(hint hint hint)...



Best Player: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

I was one of the few that picked Griffin as pre season player of the year over Hansbrough, so I'm certainly not gonna get off his bandwagon now. His talent alone should be enough to lead the Sooners to a meeting with either Syracuse or Arizona St., I just don't know if it's enough to take them any further than that. Then again, neither Cuse or ASU are all that consistent, something
Griffin and the Sooners have in spades...


So there you have it, boys and girls. All you need to know to make your picks for this years tourney. I did my best to make sure you're prepared, while at the same time leaving it wide open for you to make your bracket your own. Throw in that random mascot pick, send a team you hate home a round or two early, or pick Syracuse to lose in the first round just to spite yours truly. Hey, I did it in 2005, and look how well that worked out! Granted I didn't do it to spite myself, but I think you get the point. The key is to go crazy, while not risking falling out of contention all together in the first session of games. I think I've laid forth som good ground work for you to do exactly that. The rest, my friends. Is up to you...

And if you're not feelin' some of my advice? Well then feel free to check in on what my man Whitey has to say over at CollegeFlips.com. He's a rather pale individual, but he's one of the few people I repsect when it comes to intelligently talking about college hoops. That, and he loves when his neighbors complain to him via poem, and ordering Chinese food at all hours of the day...

Wisdom From the White Man: http://collegeflips.com/blog.aspx?GUID=7062aa1b-4812-de11-ab10-00301b43f3ed

G*d bless him. He truly is one of G*d's chosen people...


And like that, I'm gone...

Catch me on Thursday right before the tip of the 1st games for my Final Four picks, my 2009 National Champ, and Mike Edelman's white Jewish ass...

...and possibly his girl friend's nipple...

Enjoy the madness, kids. I'm outta here!...

100...

0 comments:

Post a Comment